Proto-SDN Managers Stressed By Weak Vendor Support

Survey of networking pros shows concern over inadequate tools.

Many end-user companies are steering clear of Software Defined Networking (SDN), according to analysts. Among their chief fears: the technology is far from industry-standard, much less bulletproof against errors.

But even those aren’t the top SDN-related worries among those companies, according to a survey conducted at the MPLS/SDN International Conference Nov. 17-20 by network-analysis tool developer Packet Design.

Complexity is the biggest concern for 57 percent of companies, even among an audience at a deeply technical enterprise networking conference.

Eighty-nine percent of the respondents’ 100 organizations are exploring SDN. Around 62 percent are either researching or prototyping actual implementations; 19 percent have at least a limited SDN already working in a production environment, and 8 percent plan to implement SDN in 2014 or 2015.

The main impetus is the need to support new networked services, including external clouds, big-data applications and mobility, according to 43 percent of respondents. A quarter said the main driver is the need for more business agility. Fourteen percent wanted better network uptime and performance; 13 percent wanted SDN to help them cut costs.

Even among an audience of true believers, however, SDN’s complexity is daunting. Fifty-seven percent of respondents cited complexity as their Number One concern; 26 percent said vendor lock-in was the big worry. A quarter were concerned mainly about cost; 21 percent worried about lack of visibility into SDN processes and its impact on network management.

Ten percent said their biggest concern is that the benefit of SDN won’t outpace the cost and trouble of implementing it.

Complexity, however, turns out to have as much to do with inadequacies in network management tools as in creating disquiet among the cognoscenti who would have to build an SDN.

Seventy-one percent of attendees said some of their current management tools won’t work with SDN; 84 percent said SDN is different enough from ordinary networks to require new management tools. Only 48 percent thought SDN would reduce the number of tools required to manage an enterprise network, and just 34 percent are waiting for their networking vendors to deliver new, more SDN-friendly tools.

The conclusion appears to be that even highly technical networking professionals are worried about how complex SDN is to implement and manage. However, their concern doesn’t seem to be focused on a lack of confidence in their skills or understanding.

Instead, they appear to be concerned about their ability to manage SDN with inadequate tools, and the failure of their current vendors to deliver tools that would help them get a handle on SDN and the question of where else they could get tools to do the job. Peshkova